Are Trader Joe's 13 Most Popular Items Good for You?
Last Updated: Jan 19, 2017
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Hallelujah! Trader Joe’s has found a way to marry our love of awards season with our love for Cookie Butter. The grocery chain’s annual customer polls for its Customer Choice Awards are out, crowning a winner in categories that range from favorite beverages to favorite cheese. But are our Trader Joe’s favorites actually bad for us, or are they surprisingly healthy? Read on to get the skinny on what products won America’s hearts — and stomachs — in 2016.
FAVORITE BAKERY: SOFT PRETZEL STICK
Trader Joe’s incredibly soft (and, at 99 cents, affordable) pretzel stick comes in at 160 calories per serving, with two servings per stick. Half the loaf will give you 340 milligrams of sodium, or 14 percent of your daily value, meaning that you should think twice before having the whole stick at dinner. Runners-Up: Almond Ring Danish, Sourdough Bread, Kringle, Organic French Baguette
FAVORITE BEVERAGE: SPICED CIDER
This holiday staple is made with no artificial flavors, preservatives or added sugars, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s healthy. With 130 calories in an eight-ounce serving, it packs more calories than the same amount of Coca-Cola. And while fruit juice retains some healthy vitamins and minerals, it loses the dietary fiber — useful for reducing heart disease and cancer risk — that you would get from eating whole fruits. Keep your spiced cider intake seasonal, and treat yourself with Trader Joe’s (0 calorie) flavored Sparkling Water instead. Runners-Up: Triple Ginger Brew, Winter Wassail, 100% Honey Crisp Unfiltered Apple Cider, 100% Cranberry Juice
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FAVORITE CANDY: DARK CHOCOLATE PB CUPS
There’s no getting around this one. While TJ’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups sound like they should be better for you than other popular supermarket PB bites, or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups they’re just not. The 200 calories you’ll get from snacking on the cups don’t sound too bad, until you read a little closer and see that each serving packs 18 grams of added sugar. That’s 75 percent of your sugar for the day! Research shows that high sugar intake increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The solution? Limit yourself to one peanut butter cup today; your body will thank you. Runners-Up: Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds, Scandinavian Swimmers, English Toffee, Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels
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FAVORITE CHEESE: UNEXPECTED CHEDDAR
What’s so “unexpected” about this block of cheese? “At first bite, it tastes like an aged cheddar,” Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer explains. Then “the smooth creaminess of the cheddar gives way to a tangy flavor and slightly crumbly texture, and it begins to taste like an aged Parmesan.” Nutritionally, Unexpected Cheddar is pretty run-of-the-mill. Every one-ounce serving provides you with seven grams of protein, which helps to keep you full and eating less throughout the day. It also gives you a small dose of important vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, which is good for vision and cell growth, and calcium, which keeps muscles functioning and bones strong. However, it’s high in calories (120) and saturated fat (five grams), so try to keep from eating the whole block on wine-and-cheese night. Runners-Up: Triple Creme Brie, 1000 Day Gouda, Sharp Cheddar Pub Cheese, Goat Cheese Log
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FAVORITE COFFEE: COLD-BREW COFFEE
Compared with the kind of coffee most of us make every morning, cold brew has less acid per ounce, New York City-based dietician Gina Keatley tells the Huffington Post. However, most studies done on the antioxidant benefits of coffee have examined the old-fashioned hot kind, so experts are unsure whether cold brew packs the same benefits. With cold brew, “there is a decrease in the extraction of chlorogenic acid, which is a highly bioavailable antioxidant, so it can be argued that cold brew is not as good for as hot-brewed coffee,” Keatley says. Nevertheless, Trader Joe’s Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate is an excellent option for cold brew lovers short on time. Runners-Up: French Roast Coffee, Wintry Blend, Kona Coffee, Joe’s Dark
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FAVORITE CONDIMENT: ORGANIC KETCHUP
Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup has a touch less sodium and added sugar than other popular brands and uses all organic ingredients. One experiment conducted by the University of California, Davis found that “tomatoes raised in organic plots contained significantly higher levels of certain antioxidant compounds,” NPR reports. Runners-Up: Green Dragon Hot Sauce, Thai Sweet Chile Sauce, Aioli Garlic Mustard, Hatch Valley Salsa
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FAVORITE HOME/BATH: TEA TREE SHAMPOO
Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo highlights tea tree oil, which has antibacterial properties and can help to combat dandruff, according to dermatologist Aurora DeJuliis in the Huffington Post. Plus, blogger Nikisha Brunson of Urban Bush Babes writes that the peppermint in the shampoo gives your scalp a “tingling sensation,” making it feel super clean. Runners-Up: Coconut Body Butter, Pumpkin Body Butter, Head To Toe Balm, Lavender Dryer Sachets
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FAVORITE MEAT(LESS): SOY CHORIZO
Vegans rejoice! Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo lets you have all the flavor of the traditional Mexican sausage without the cholesterol and with 60 percent less fat. It also has tons of vitamin A, fiber, protein and iron. Beware, however, as a tiny 2.5-ounce serving comes with 700 milligrams of sodium — a whopping 30 percent of your daily value. Runners-Up: Meatless Meatballs, Ground Turkey, Chicken Sausage, Grass Fed Angus Beef
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FAVORITE PRODUCE: BANANAS
It’s no secret that bananas are great for your health. One banana has more than 400 milligrams of potassium, which is essential for good nerve and muscle function. They also contain loads of immune system-boosting vitamin C and are naturally free of fat and cholesterol. Go Joe’s! Runners-Up: Avocado, Brussels Sprouts, Riced Cauliflower, Arugula
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FAVORITE SALAD: ARUGULA
Arugula, a nutritious green with a peppery, acidic flavor, has a bunch of health benefits. It’s low in calories, making it an excellent choice for anyone watching his or her weight. It’s also high in vitamins A, K and C and calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and folate. “According to the ANDI, arugula is among the top 10 most nutrient-dense foods: It’s almost 30 percent more nutrient-dense than cabbage and nearly 50 percent more nutrient-dense than cauliflower,” Meg Campbell writes on LIVESTRONG.COM. Long story short, you can’t go wrong with Trader Joe’s arugula. Runners-Up: Baby Spinach, Cruciferous Crunch, Butter Lettuce, Healthy 8 Chopped Veggies
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FAVORITE SNACK: PEANUT BUTTER PRETZELS
Sweet and salty are married perfectly in Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Pretzels. Eleven pieces will give you 140 calories. And while they’re a bit high in fat, they’re surprisingly low in sodium and sugar. As far as snacks go, they’re not incredibly bad for you — if you stop at 11 pieces. Runners-Up: Organic Corn Chip Dippers, Plantain Chips, World’s Puffiest White Cheddar Corn Puffs, Kettle Corn
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FAVORITE PUMPKIN: PUMPKIN BUTTER
Because Trader Joe’s pumpkin-filled items obviously needed their own category. Despite it’s name, Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Butter doesn’t contain any dairy. It’s also free of fat, cholesterol and sodium. But don’t get too generous with this treat; one tablespoon of the stuff contains nine grams of added sugar, which is 38 percent of your daily value. Runners-Up: Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Mix, Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Mix, Organic Canned Pumpkin, This Pumpkin Walks Into a Bar
BEST FROZEN FOOD, BEST OVERALL
If you’re obsessed with Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken, you’re not alone.Not only did it will best frozen food, it also won for best overall food. It’s even a top favorite for Andrea Lynn, who wrote an entire cookbook on cooking with Trader Joe’s items, according to Kitchn. Unfortunately, one cup of the stuff has 95 milligrams of cholesterol, which is 30 percent of your daily value so you may want to limit your intake to one cup. It also has 3.5 grams of saturated fat and 330 milligrams of sodium. On the bright side, it has 21 grams of protein, which is 44 percent of your daily value. Runners-Up: Joe’s Diner Mac ’n Cheese, Riced Cauliflower, Hatch Chile Mac ’n Cheese, Chocolate Croissants
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
What are you favorite Trader Joe’s items? Have you tried any of the ones on this list? Do you look at food labels when you’re shopping? Let us know what you think in the comments section!
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